Does Where A Student Sits Really Matter? - The Impact of Seating Locations on Student Classroom Learning :
This is the first part of my ‘Medley’ of thoughts: Teacher’s Start of the Year Checklist.
There are indicators suggesting that student location within the classroom affects academic performance (Burda & Brooks, 1996; Holliman & Anderson, 1986; Perkins & Wieman, 2005; Sztejnberg & Finch, 2006).Research shows that seating locations are related to academic achievement and classroom participation (Budge, 2000; Marx, Fuhrer, & Hartig, 2000; Wannarka & Ruhl, 2008; Weinstein, 1979). Although the access to different resources and increased monitoring provided by sitting at the front of the class pose students with a different environment than those sitting near the back of the class, student learning motivation and personalities traits play a big role in achievement and involvement in the learning experience (Burda & Brooks, 1996; Edwards, 2000).
This may be due to their self-assurance in their ability to maximize the learning experience provided by sitting closer to the front. This may also be due to the ability to recognize the increase in access to learning resources and a clearer line of communication between the student and the instructor.
Different seating locations have the ability to influence teacher-student and student-student interaction (Marx, Fuhrer, & Hartig, 2000).
For example, non-linear seating arrangements such as semi-circles or a u-shape increase the possibility of face-to-face communication between students and teachers (Sztejnberg & Finch, 2006).
Seating locations can also impact the nature of different tasks and activities used in the classroom. For example, using rows and columns greatly emphasizes the role of the individual. As such, one may conclude that using rows and columns as a seating arrangement increases on-task behavior and attention when students are to complete individual work (Betoret & Artiga, 2004; Budge, 2000; Edwards, 2000; Hastings & Schwieso, 1995; Hofkins, 1994; Wannarka & Ruhl, 2008).
If the focus of the activity is no longer individual but communal, nonlinear seating arrangements may be best. As Wannarka & Ruhl (2008) note in their summary of empirical research on seating arrangements in the classroom, communication is greatly emphasized and increased when students sit in a semicircular seating arrangement.
Seating arrangements can help control disruptive and easily distracted students (Hastings & Schwieso, 1995; Wannarka & Ruhl, 2008).
One may interpret a student’s decision to sit near the front of the class as an indicator of deeper interest in the class and to secure that student’s ability to participate in the class activities. If this is the case, then student personality is a key motivator in the selection of seating location. Earlier research has indicated that students who choose to sit near the front of the class, or in central seats, more often exhibit creative, assertive, and competitive personality traits (Totusek & Staton-Spicer, 1982).
Different seating conditions also present themselves in different countries. Though seating arrangements such as rows and columns, small groups, u-shape, and semi-circles are often used throughout the world, pedagogical beliefs tend to influence and dictate the most commonly used seating plan. For example, North America is moving towards the promotion of small groups within the classroom (Lan IJAES – Vol. 10 No. 1 Pg. No. 75 et al., 2009).
Following photo shows one of the possibilities.
Fernandes, A. C., Huang, J., & Rinaldo, V. (2011). Does where a student sits really matter? The impact of seating locations on student classroom learning. International Journal of Applied Educational Studies, 10(1), 66-77.
Budge, D. (2000). Secret is in the seating. Times Educational Supplement, 4396, 26-27.